A Reminder Of Why

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A connect card turned in on Sunday.

A reminder of why we do it.

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Get To

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I’ve heard the term, “it’s not just another Sunday.” If you serve in guest services, you know what I’m talking about. It’s somebody’s first Sunday. It’s somebody’s first time walking into the doors of the church. Your church.
 
We don’t have to go to church on Sunday. We get to go to church on Sunday. Get to.
 
If you get the insanely awesome privilege of working at the church during the week, that statement can apply to any day. It’s not just another Monday. It’s not just another Tuesday. It’s not just another Wednesday.
The first visit extends beyond the “goodbye.” It extends into the week. It extends into those Monday morning meetings. It extends into the follow up with guests. It extends into updating the database profile. A person moves from ‘visitor’ or ‘guest’ to ‘member.’ The ‘baptism date’ now has data where once there was a blank field. And you get to see that.
You’ve got field-level tickets.
 
Tim Keller wrote: our daily work can be a calling only if it is reconceived as God’s assignment to serve others.
 
Today we get to serve people.
Get to.

What Is This?

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Have you ever played one of those “what is this close up” games? You know, you think it’s a sunflower and it turns out to be a bumblebee?

I’ve had that same experience with church management software. This week, I was examining CCB Process Queues. I love them. When used appropriately, they can streamline a lot of processes and centralize some communication.

So I looked closely at each queue and each process. And they each looked great.

And then I stepped back and took the 30,000-foot view (by the way, I’ve been made aware that I just used one of the most annoying business phrases).

And I saw a few things: they weren’t working the way I thought they were and the people receiving the alerts weren’t seeing the same things I was seeing.

It’s not a secret that CCB ranks pretty high up on my list of top Church Management Software programs. I also realize that most [normal] people don’t quite love this as much as I do.

It’s my goal to help people understand the why and the what before introducing the how.

So, I called my doctor and asked for prescription anti-anxiety medication, considered moving to a tropical island, offered to suspend the process queues for awhile and try [revert back to] something different [and familiar].

I think I saw the person on the other side of the desk let out a sigh of relief.

I also signed away my weekend, but who are we kidding? This is CCB. When people [at work] ask what I do for fun I tell them that this is what I do for fun. Sometimes I forget I’m working. When I do remember that I’m working, I’m grateful I get paid to do this.

I’m not killing off process queues. I still love them. I still understand their value. There’s definitely a goal to begin using them again – soon.

In the close up view, I saw my computer and my processes.

Taking a step back, I saw the people.

Sometimes it’s in the best interest of the people to let go of a process in order to make progress.

Everything Communicates

communications devices

If you read this blog with any regularity, you’ll learn that while I love church management software, I know it’s just a tool in the overall communications of the church. I also use it as a primary tool for tracking guest services and assimilation. I think the right software can – and should – be the center of church communications.

You’ll also learn that I believe everything we do communicates. Everything communicates something in some way.

Which led me this week to an often overlooked setting by many churches when it comes to their church management software: custom wording in your financial settings.

What wording is going on your end-of-year giving statements? Is it ‘stock wording’ that came with the software? Is there anything at all? Does it reflect the culture of your church?

If you don’t know where this setting is, check under the financial settings of your software and make it  yours.

Everything communicates!

Open For Business

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Who is working this week?

I am.

I’m doing a lot of planning and groundwork so that I can hit the ground running in 2018!

This is a good week to review all of your communications assets – from the outward facing web site and social media accounts to your office productivity assets.

This week I know of one church that saved almost $90/month by moving to GSuite for non-profits.

If you’re using a Church Management Software, this is a good week to run some audit reports.

  • See if you need to merge any data profiles or make anyone inactive.
  • Check all of your profile fields for missing information.
  • If you’re using “membership type” information, see if any of those need updated.
  • Reach out to people you haven’t seen in awhile.

Enter all of the connect card information from your Christmas services. If your connect cards have any ‘response’ areas (check boxes; ‘write-in’ information), follow up with people this week. This time of year, people may be looking to (re)connect with church.

It’s also a good time to set some goals for the coming year. This year, I’ll be more focused on questions like:

  • Is this sustainable?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Can it be duplicated as we invest in new leaders and church plants?
  • Does it help people find and follow Jesus?

I am excited about what God has done in 2017.

I am even more excited about what I believe God is going to do in 2018!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Manger scene

Christmas Eve and Christmas services have started. My daughter’s church had their service last night. Another local church had a ‘living nativity’ last night. My son will play with his church band three times tomorrow. There’s a church nearby that has services today (they are having a hot chocolate bar and a photo booth!). A few members of our family are attending a service tomorrow morning.

At this point, you’re probably expecting this post to be about follow up, connecting with your guests, updating your web site, and helping your guests take their next step.

I think you already know how I feel about all of that. If not, here’s a recap:

  • Follow up should be immediate. Get those connect cards entered in Sunday evening and send follow up emails right away. If your follow up plan includes phone calls, you could let those go on Christmas Day, but don’t wait a week.
  • Connect with your guests. Have greeters and info people visible and over-communicate every step of the way during your service.
  • Update your web site. Remember that your visitors may go home with questions or wonder what’s next. An updated web site will help them find some answers. (Don’t forget to update your social media, too!)
  • Help them take their next step. A lot of people make a New Year’s resolution to go back to church. You want to have staff and key leaders available to help them do that.

But what this post is really about is permission to not do all of these things.

That’s right. Permission to let it go.

What if you get 50 connect cards entered into your system on Christmas Eve night, but haven’t stopped to pray with one person?

What if you say hello to 100 people, but don’t stop to ask any of them how they are doing?

What if you update your web site and social media Christmas Eve night, but don’t consider who might be seeing those updates?

What if you have all of the next steps in place, but no one takes them?

Use wisdom and discernment this Christmas season and find balance between working as unto the Lord, and letting the Lord work in and through you.

Merry Christmas!

My Favorite Tools

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This morning I was talking with a client about a strategy we’re going to use in promoting an upcoming conference. One of the things I told her was that I wasn’t just going to do everything, but that I was going to include her in the why and how of everything I was doing.

I don’t want to just DO – I want to leave her with the tools she’ll need if she ever needs or wants to do it herself. I want to give her all-access to all of my tools. I want to leave her and this ministry better than I found it. We’re working on a conference for 2018. If she needs me for 2019, I’m happy to help. But even better would be if she is empowered to not need me for the 2019 conference.

Some would say I’m working myself out of a job. Maybe. Our real job is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19).

So, other than the database (by far my favorite tool I use for church connections, assimilation, and organization), here are a few of my other favorite tools.

1. Mission Insite. Empower your faith-based or nonprofit organization with the tools to answer today’s most difficult strategic challenges. You may already have access to this. Check to see their current clients: http://missioninsite.com/our-clients.

2. Canva. Create graphics, apply for a free business plan and upload your brand colors, fonts, and create templates. I love Photoshop, Lightroom, After Effects, and the entire Adobe Suite. It’s not always practical. There are a lot of churches that only provide programs like Microsoft Publisher to their admin. staff. Canva is great for creating and also team collaboration.

3. Heatmap tools. Real time analytics for your web site. This will help you see where and how people are interacting with your web site.

4. Ministry Designs (or any drag & drop web site builder). WordPress is awesome, but not always easy for the staff of a small-to-medium sized church. A drag and drop web site builder helps me empower my clients to work on their own web site. I told my client today, I am going to hold your hand through this initial process. Soon you’re going to be able to say, “I do web sites.”

5. YouVersion Events. (Any of Life.Church’s resources are great.) Upload your event, add information about your church, Bible verses, a sermon outline, weekly announcements, a link to an online connect card, etc.

6. Google Keep. With Google Keep, I can create daily to-do lists and share the with collaborators so that they can see what I’m working on and add, delete, or comment on items. You can create lists with check boxes or in ‘note’ form.

Other tools I will use are TechSoup, GSuite for e-mail, Google/MyBusiness for business analytics, MailChimp, Asana, and graphics from graphics.church, Church Butler, and SundaySocial.tv.

Now it’s your turn. What are some tools you love to use?

Balancing Act

Balance girl bridge

In addition to the database, there are some other things I like: strategy, connections, social media, web content management, and graphics. I really focus a lot on visual consistency.

Someone recently asked me how I merged the visual side of my brain with the analytical side of my brain.

Here’s the answer:

I try to understand both sides of the table. I’ve worked with people who are 100% ‘analytical’ people. Some of our best friends serve in Executive Pastor roles. I get where they are coming from and don’t disagree with them.

I also understand that we live in a ‘visual’ oriented world and statistics show that people want their information in 140 characters or less.

The great thing about most of the current Church Management Software programs is that most of them offer integration with the public web site and other integration areas.

For example, CCB will give you the option of publishing an event to a public web site. When creating the event in CCB, you also have the option of an event-image. You can then share that event on social media. The CCB event image should be a 16:9 ratio so I usually create a second image square to share on other social media channels. In addition to your event image, you can have an image on the sign up form and sign up forms can be directly shared on social media. With small changes, you can have the same image for the event, and the sign up form, as well as other social media channels.

For your CCB forms page, you can further edit the image so that rather than a great wall of text, your sign up page displays a ‘clickable link.’ You can even create small buttons that will display on the confirmation page.  These buttons can direct people back to the forms page, back to your church web site, or back to your CCB log-in or home/welcome page. Using a graphics program, create the buttons in whatever size or color you need to meet your branding specifications. This makes it easier if you’re using ipad kiosks to sign up for events.

Not only do these create visual consistency for your end user, they can  help save you time. Once an event is entered in the software, it will automatically go to your web site, saving you valuable time and reducing the chance for errors that could come from either using ‘cut-and-paste’ or typing the same information twice.

What are some ways you’ve synced your ChMS with your web site and social media?

An Early Christmas Present

Christmas gift present lights

Yesterday I got an early and much appreciated Christmas gift.

If you read this blog regularly, you will know how much I liked my job. Yet, at the end of the day, there were parts of it that definitely qualified as work. (Isn’t there always.)

You’ll also know that it’s really hard for me to “turn it off” sometimes most of the time okay, okay, all the time. See, I really REALLY like what I do. You might call it my hobby. Or my passion.

Read this.

But, clearly, there were some things about my job that my family wasn’t liking. And they made sure I knew.

The first day of my official unemployment, I was a bit stressed thinking about staying connected to my peers, keeping up with trends in technology and communications, and – let’s be honest – our family finances.

So I decided to take matters into my own hands. (Because that always works, right? I may have momentarily forgotten any scripture that says we should go to God first.)

Gratefully, God didn’t throw me completely under the bus. As a matter of fact, a Pastor that I greatly admire managed to connect me with some communications clients. They are social media and web content clients that I knew I’d be able to maintain even if I got a ‘real’ job.

A local arts non-profit has asked me to serve as their Communications Director. I’m excited about this opportunity. It’s a volunteer position, but they will give my daughter free tuition in their classes. That’s worth a lot.

But I couldn’t let go of some of the worry. (Clearly, I forget to read my Bible sometimes.)

I made a mental note of the job I wanted, the geographical area, my job duties, the hours, the organizational structure of the church or ministry, I had it nailed down and when I prayed, I prayed specifically for that job (not even knowing if it existed).

Yet, instead of believing that God was FOR me (and who could be against me), I began looking at any opportunity I could find. I think the term “throwing darts to see what sticks” could apply. One day I decided I could teach pre-school (I can’t). Another day I decided I could work in retail (probably not a good idea, either). Working in the medical or dental field? I do that on missions trips. I don’t want to do it all day, every day.

So a few weeks ago we were sitting in church and the Pastor was talking about taking our questions and concerns to God. Got it.

But…

Seriously, dude, there’s a but to that!?!?!?

When you do, you have to have your yes on the table first. Basically, he likened it to signing the contract agreement first, then reading the fine print after.

I’ve heard that before, but that day it really resonated.

As we left church, I made that statement. I’m done looking for a job. My  yes is out there to whatever you have for me, whenever you have it. Lead us where you want us next.

That very night, all six of us ended up going to the same place. If you’ve ever had college-aged kids, you know that’s a miracle. Normally, we have to pay our kids to hang out with us. But that night, all six of us. In the same car.

I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in 7 years – at least. Her name wasn’t even on my radar as far as connecting with. I was surprised to see her, yet ecstatic. The most awesome thing was that after all these years, she seemed happy to see me. I love my friends. Even when I don’t see them for 7 years.

She said she’d kept up with me on social media and wondered what was happening lately. I told her that I really wanted to find a new job, but wasn’t sure what that would look like.

What do you do?

I told her what I do, what I felt like I was good at and then I said, “I don’t know what it looks like, but I do know it has to be with a church or ministry.”

What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. She knew of the perfect job for me.

Oh snap!

Is it too soon? Have I communicated to my family that they are number one? Have we learned a lesson from this? Are there still more to be learned (isn’t there always)?

I decided to send my resume. It couldn’t hurt.

The ensuing whirlwind – meeting with the Pastor, talking to an Elder, another meeting.

Multiple confirmations from my husband and kids – multiple prayers answered and some things that just only could have come from God.

The perfect job I described to God was right there on the table.

And I still feel like I’m dreaming, but it’s very real. Do I get to say, “I’m living the dream?” I am.

December 14 – exactly one month to the day that my last job came to an end – the Lead Pastor looked at me and said, “I’d like to move forward with this.”

Technically, I start in January.

There’s a lot I can’t – and don’t want to – share right now. This story belongs to my future employer. It’s their story to tell and I’ll give more details when they feel comfortable.

What I can share is that God hears our prayers and answers them in His perfect time. I can share that God orchestrates everything – that nothing is a coincidence. Every person I’ve seen and talked to over the past few weeks has been a part of what is right now. These are people I hadn’t expected to see – people I hadn’t expected God to put in my path. But He did, and I’m grateful.

I can share that problems should be tackled head on. It would have been easy to sweep things under the rug and hibernate. Instead I looked at my family and apologized to them for the blinders I’d had on and for how I’d put the church first. How could we move forward as a family? What did they need from me in order to feel like we had a healthy family again?

I read a blog post this week about someone being on a plane that had some issues prior to taking off. In the end, all they had to do was turn the plane off and back on to re-set the computer system. I think that’s what God did. Turn it off, now turn it back on. In only one month.

Hearing the Lead Pastor say he was comfortable moving forward… hearing his wife ask if I could start early and have it be volunteer work (um, yes!)… knowing that my husband and kids were ready for this (again)… and realizing it was one month to the day.

Yesterday I received one of the best early Christmas presents I could have asked for.

Oh, and I’ll still be working with Church Management Software. The blog will go on…

 

8 Free Things Your Church Can Do To Serve Your Guests This Christmas.

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Most of the time, this blog is dedicated to how we use Church Management Software. I also know that the software is just a tool we use in the overall guest strategy process: getting our first time guests connected to our church and committed to our mission. So today we’ll look at the overall process of guest services.

I’ll admit it. I’m a big fan of some things people would call attractional. Have a hot cocoa bar or stock your coffee bar with some extra seasonal treats (peppermint mocha creamer).

Have a photo booth, have Santa (yes, in church!). You might want to stop short of a car give-away or hiring a helicopter to drop money from the sky. Unless, of course, you’ve earnestly prayed and God is calling you to do that. Then by all means, do it.

But for some churches, the budget for these things just isn’t there.

Here are 8 free things you can do to serve your guests this Christmas:

1. Check your web site and social media. This is the first step in your guest services process. People are checking you out online before they decide to visit your physical property. Is everything accurate? If a sign up or tickets are required for a special Christmas service, is there a way to respond online? Are your event images, event branding, and church branding visually consistent?

2. Have greeters stationed outside the door. Once I’m on the property, is it clear that I know where to go? I’m a big fan of parking teams, but if you don’t have a parking team, at minimum, have a door greeter or two stationed OUTSIDE the door. Yes, I know it’s cold. Gloves. Hat. Warm coat. A smiling face. Your first time guests are in their car and you may have multiple entrances. Make sure there is someone outside welcoming them.

3. Have your staff and volunteers park furthest away. I know of a church that meets in a shopping center/strip mall. They frequently ask their staff and volunteers to park in the back. Should your staff and volunteers park off-site and carpool or can you arrange a volunteer shuttle? Do whatever it takes to free up prime parking spaces for your guests this Christmas.

4. Declutter. We’re in a season of Nativity Sets and flowers. Great. How much of that is there because it’s necessary and how much is there because a prominent church member donated it and that’s where it’s always been? I have a friend who is a real estate agent and when someone is trying to sell their home, the first thing she tells them is to declutter. Get all of your stuff off your counter tops and shelves because people want a clean slate. They want to envision their stuff in your home. Do you have so much in your ‘home’ that people can’t imagine being a part of it? Give them open space to imagine themselves being there.

5. Clean. Unless you’re not in the habit of cleaning regularly, this will cost you. At minimum you need some cleaning cloths and a multi-purpose spray. I hope you already have this. Go in Saturday night and take out the trash, wipe down bathrooms, make sure there’s plenty of toilet paper and make sure it’s two-ply (yes, I went there). Are the soap dispensers full? Okay, so this may cost you a few dollars (be thankful for dollar stores). Run the vacuum, and check for stray pieces of trash in the worship center. You get the idea. Tidy up.

6. Communicate and explain. Your church may take communion differently than the one I normally attend. That’s okay, but do I know that? For example, I know one church that passes the communion plates and each family prays together as a family and takes communion in their own time as music is softly playing. Another church passes the plates, waits until everyone is served, and their Pastor leads them in taking communion together, and yet another church has communion stations. It is not served, you go take communion as you’re led. None of those are ‘bad’ ways to take communion. Each is very different. But would you know what to do if you weren’t told?

Explain what you’re doing every step of the way. Believer or non-believer, if I don’t go to your church, I don’t know your traditions. In addition to this, tell people a little bit about your church and how they can get involved going into 2018. Tell them about small groups, children’s ministry, your next big event, etc.

Don’t neglect internal communication.

If your children’s ministry is doing something different than normal, make sure you tell your greeter ministry so they can be prepared to answer questions as guests arrive.

7. Say goodbye. Have a greeter stationed at every outside exit. Tell your guests goodbye and thank them for coming. I  don’t just mean from the worship center to the lobby. Say goodbye as they exit the building. “Bye. Thank you for coming. Have a Merry Christmas.”

8. Follow up right way. Yes, I get it. It’s Christmas Eve (Sunday) or Christmas Day (Monday), but I guarantee you there is someone willing to make the sacrifice. Get those guests entered into your database (Church Management Software was going to play a part in this post somewhere) and follow your normal follow up procedures. If your follow up procedures include a Monday phone call, that could wait until Tuesday. For 2017, I would get them entered Sunday night and send an email that night thanking them for coming, telling them what’s next and how to get connected. Whatever you do, don’t wait a week. It’s normal for churches to take a week off between Christmas and New Years. As a connections person, I had a tendency to work or serve when it was normal for others to be off. I want to get those guests connected and if coming to church more is part of their New Year’s Resolution, I want to help them with that.

All of these things are 100% free. What else can you think of to add to this list?